JTB to cover PCR fees for tourist groups

Stakeholders call for extending PCR fee-exemption period

Mahmoud Khasawneh, member of board of directors of JSTA, stated that tourism in Jordan will not recover before the second half of 2025. (Photo: Envato Elements)
AMMAN — Jordan Tourism Board (JTB) on Saturday said that as of January 1 and until the end of the month it will pay fees of PCR tests for tourist groups traveling to Jordan on organized trips through all airports and land crossings, a decision a JTB official said will be revised depending on its effect on tourism.اضافة اعلان

Tourism stakeholders said that while this is a step in the right direction that is bound to help tourism pick up again, it needs to be accompanied by other measures to increase tourist turnout and also support companies and individuals.

“This measure has been long waited for, but it came late and it covers only a short period that is part of the dead season,” member of the board of directors of Jordan Society of Tourism and Travel Agents (JSTA) Mahmoud Khasawneh said, calling for forming a committee to study the effect of the decision effect and for extending it to cover the first five months of next year.

He said that there are 700 travel agencies in Jordan, all facing massive challenges since the beginning of COVID-19, including the inability to pay employees’ salaries and renew licenses.

Khasawneh said that 50 percent of travel agencies were removed from Istidama (sustainability) program that supports companies because they were considered as having “recovered”, while they are not yet.

According to Khasawneh, tourism in Jordan will not recover before the second half of 2025.

He called upon the concerned bodies to support the tourism sector describing it as the “oil of Jordan”.

Ibrahim Zraiqi, president of the Jordanian Handicraft Producers and Traders Association said that last October, tourism started to recover, so most souvenir shops reopened, returned their employees and bought goods, but it was a short-term recovery.

Zraiqi welcomed JTB’s decision, urging other bodies to join the efforts to promote tourism and help people who work in the sector recover from the two-year-long crisis they are still facing.

He said that most handicraft producers and traders are still unable to pay salaries and rents.

Hani Massadeh, president of Tourist Guides Association, called for exempting tourist guides from having to pay fees to renew licenses for the coming year as the sector has not recovered yet.

Massadeh also called for extending the grace period of the loans that tour guides have taken through Istidama program and lowering repayment installments.

He urged the Tourism Ministry to address all tourism associations, Petra Development and Tourism Region Authority and Aqaba Special Economic Zone to also exempt members of associations’ from paying renewal fees.
President of the Jordan Hotel Association Abdul Hakim Al-Hindi said that the rate of cancellation of hotel reservations will reach about 90 percent within a week due to concerns related to COVID-19.

Hindi called on the government to “save” the hotel sector, which is experiencing a “big crisis”, and said that it is very possible that most hotels may not be able to pay the salaries of their employees, noting that “the workers in the tourism sector are the backbone of the sector and must be protected”.

He also called for bringing all stakeholders back to the Istidama program and postponing loan back-payment for six months from now.

Internationally, thousands of flights were canceled on Christmas Day due to restrictions imposed by the spread of the Omicron variant, according to FlightAware, a flight-tracking website. 

Minister of Health Feras Al-Hawari said on Sunday that the ministry intends to cancel COVID-19 tests for individuals arriving to the Kingdom if they make proof of a negative PCR test result obtained maximum 72 hours before entering the country.

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